Feeds

The pros and cons of business application packages

It's all about horses for courses

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

Poll Results Whether to build or buy, that is the question? Well, it is for many when it comes to business applications. It's a topic on which we asked for your feedback as part of our latest workshop, and over 100 of you came back with your views on it. So what did we learn?

Firstly, the drivers for going down the ’buy’ rather than ‘build’ route are pretty clear. The majority see a reduction in the cost and time it takes to deliver new applications as being a strong attraction towards packages, with additional benefits being highlighted in the area of ongoing maintenance and support (Figure 1).

Figure 1

These top three factors are all to do with taking the heat off IT from a resource and budget perspective. This is consistent with most IT departments wrestling with a backlog of projects and being constantly under pressure to do more with less.

Another strong driver is completeness of functionality, providing room to grow. To appreciate the significance of this, consider that when building custom solutions, you don't typically have the luxury of including functions or capabilities in scope that you can't identify an explicit need for in the short to medium term.

As business needs change and evolve, new development is therefore required to modify or extend the application, which in turn means finding the necessary time and resource, often with very little notice. By contrast, with a package, the functionality tends to be a superset of the requirements from the software vendor’s entire customer base or target market. The upshot is that while you only make use of what you need during the initial implementation, additional capability is more likely to be already there to meet new requirements down the line.

Of course this principle is dependent upon the package chosen being a reasonable fit for the business context in which it is being used. And when we consider this question of fit in the broader context, it quickly becomes clear that finding suitable packages for everything is a pretty tall order. It is therefore not surprising that blending packages with custom developments is the way in which most organisations meet their application needs (Figure 2).

Figure 2

The neat looking bell curve we see here, however, hides an important point that a number of readers raised, which is summed up in this quote from one of our respondents:

Many of the packages we use have been heavily modified from base, are now out of support, difficult to find expertise on (since they are far from vanilla) and so on...

This brings us onto some of the practical challenges and pitfalls associated with the use of application packages, the most prominent of which revolve around constraints at either a functionality or technology level (Figure 3).

Figure 3

The first of these challenges is arguably a result of the second two, in that technical and functional rigidity constrains the degree to which applications can be tailored to deal with special requirements. The focus on this issue is understandable. In the real world, the chances of any comprehensive solution or suite being a good fit across all of the areas of functionality are extremely remote. While it might hit the spot perfectly in some places, it could be way off the mark in others.

In larger organisations, variations in policy and process across the business can also mean that the fit is different in each division or subsidiary, and if needs are met perfectly in one place, almost by definition, they will not be met in others.

While application rigidity is a common problem, however, the evidence suggests that the picture is not all bad. It is important to recognise that many application vendors have started to introduce more flexibility and openness into their solutions. Indeed, the chances are that the opinions gathered in our poll more reflect the historical rather than current situation given the typical application refresh cycle and the fact that many mainstream packages have only been rearchitected relatively recently around open standards, SOA, and so on. Nevertheless, there is a clear message to beware of problems in this area.

Finally, the other bugbear that comes out from the poll is that of licensing and maintenance costs (Figure 4).

Figure 4

This is an issue upon which it is very difficult to generalise. While some software vendors have been widely reported in recent times as attempting to abuse the hold they have over their customers by forcing them to accept new terms and price hikes unilaterally, it is clear that some customers take what they get too much for granted. It’s arguably a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other.

At which point, it is good to come back to where we started and remind ourselves of the drivers for packaged applications we were looking at previously - lower cost of delivery, faster time to benefit, lower overheads on IT, and so on, when compared to building or commissioning custom alternatives.

Netting all this out, the main conclusion is not rocket science. The right package deployed in the right way in the right environment can lead to significant advantages in terms of cost, benefit, responsiveness and risk management. If the fit is poor in too many places, or the architectural foundation for the solution is too rigid, then costs and risks will escalate and/or the business will be constrained. As a result, the approach of blending custom and packaged applications continues to be the best way of meeting business requirements. ®

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

More from The Register

next story
Bono apologises for iTunes album dump
Megalomania, generosity and FEAR of irrelevance drove group to Apple deal
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
Arab States make play for greater government control of the internet
Nerds told to get lost in last-minute power grab bid at UN meeting
Apple SILENCES Bose, YANKS headphones from stores
The, er, Beats go on after noise-cancelling spat
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
Zippy one-liners, broken promises: Doctor Who on the Orient Express
Series finally hits stride, but Clara's U-turn is baffling
Don't bother telling people if you lose their data, say Euro bods
You read that right – with the proviso that it's encrypted
America's super-secret X-37B plane returns to Earth after nearly TWO YEARS aloft
674 days in space for US Air Force's mystery orbital vehicle
10 Top Tips For PRs Considering Whether To Phone The Register
You'll Read These And LOL Even Though They're Serious
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Win a year’s supply of chocolate
There is no techie angle to this competition so we're not going to pretend there is, but everyone loves chocolate so who cares.
Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.